The Rays New Trend? | The Process Report

The Rays New Trend?

The Rays always seem to have some new trend or another. Here’s something that’s been tough to ignore through three games.

First let’s address the sample-size caveats. Yes, it’s been three games—and actually not even that for the players under examination. That’s not enough time for many statistics to do anything, from stabilize to change into something more comfortable. Still, take a look at the relief staff and their first-pitch fastball tendencies:

Pitcher ’15 TBF ’15 0-0 FB% ’14 0-0 FB%
Boxberger 7 57% 57%
Jepsen 7 43% 67%
Frieri 3 33% 82%
Geltz 7 43% 73%
Beliveau 2 100% 53%
Yates 4 75% 56%
Balfour 4 75% 60%

Kevin Jepsen, Ernesto Frieri, and Steve Geltz—none of whom showed an inclination last season to pitch backward—are behaving like Joel Peralta, who in 2014 threw first-pitch fastballs 33 percent of the time. A couple pitchers have gone the other way, but it’s hard to ignore three fastball-first relievers suddenly leaning on their secondaries.

The reason this merits watching is because it wouldn’t be the first time the Rays instructed a pitcher to change his approach. Part of James Shields’ turnaround in 2011 is credited to his willingness to apply data from the front office to his pitching. He started using his curveball as a means to protect his fastball while stealing a strike. There have been other cases where a team-wide philosophy seems to be in play, too—same-handed changeups, elevated fastballs, and so on.

Those examples don’t prove the Rays are up to anything here; they just prove there’s a chance, however slim it may seem, that this is something more than a small-sample mirage.

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